Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Grief and Holy Days

Many who are grieving find the holidays to be treacherous and unholy ground.  Facing those traditional days without their loved one is just too much to bear. I was the exception rather than the norm when it came to this.  In my now dark and scary world where everything was changed I found the the holidays to be a relief because they were traditional. They did not change.  I was drawn out of my tiny, grief focused life and found refuge in family.

A few weeks before Leroy died in July we had spent a weekend at my cousin Carla's a couple hours upriver. It was a time of fun, freedom and family. We made memories. Following his death our extended family Thanksgiving was hosted by Carla as well.  We gathered there with family.  I brought the scrapbook we were creating about him.  On the coffee table was a candle lit in his memory, tucked in the flowers around the base was a small wishbone.  He always asked for the wishbone.  After other family members left we stayed for the rest of weekend.  It was a time of missing, healing and tears. We made memories. The Biker read a book about the death of a beloved son and cried. If you know him, he is not a reader and at that time tears did not come easily either.  In a drawer there was a small pad of paper. Imprinted into it was the letter Leroy had written to his Auntie Nunie.  If you knew him you would know that reading and writing did not come easily to him either.  Artist that he was, all around the edges he had drawn flowers and curly ques.  He was so proud of that letter. His eyes sparkled with excitement as he told me she would have to write back to him because he asked how the baby was doing!

Once again it is Thanksgiving. We are here in Virginia Beach to celebrate with our sailor. In his living room is a candle. Beside it is a small framed photograph of a small, brown eyed boy holding his baby brother.  Six years between them but they were good buds.  Twenty-two years later, we still miss him.

Holidays. Holy days.  How do we do this?

Find a way to honor your loved one as part of your celebration.  It does not have to be extravagant just meaningful to you.

Change a few things but do not change everything. Remember you are not the only one grieving though our grief fogged mind has made our focus that small.  Think about those nearest and dearest to you and what their needs may be.  Not celebrating at all may seem best to us, however, especially for children, losing the holiday along with their favorite traditions may be too big a loss to bear with the loss they are already enduring.  We can easily make those whom we are still blessed to have in our lives feel as if their life is no longer important to us because of death. Love them.

If others beyond your nearest and dearest do not like the changes you are making in your holiday traditions and celebrations, offer them grace. They do not understand.

Have a plan.  You may tweak it when the time comes, change it up or abandon it completely but have a plan. Death leaves us feeling helpless and out of control.  A plan that did not work is better than no plan at all which leaves you feeling more helpless and out of control.  Be patient with yourself.  You are finding your way through rough and rocky ground you have not traveled before.

Often the anticipation of the holiday is worse than the day itself. Anticipation of the pain is often worse than the pain itself. It is okay to be sad. It is okay to cry and miss and wish. It is okay to be happy and enjoy yourself in spite of it all.

May your season be holy and wear red shoes for courage - Pat

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